Today in Literary History – April 6, 1917 – painter and writer Leonora Carrington is born

Leanora Carrington, the Surrealist painter and short story writer, was born on April 6, 1917, into a wealthy British family. She lived most of her long life in Mexico, where she died in 2011 at the age of 94.

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Carrington became fascinated by the paintings of the Surrealists at a young age. Despite her parents’ discouragement she decided to pursue an artistic career. At the age of 20 she met the Surrealist painter Max Ernst, 26 years her senior, while he was visiting London. She moved with him to France and the couple worked together and separately on paintings and sculptures.

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With Max Ernst

With the German occupation of France during World War II Ernst, who was Jewish, was arrested but was able to flee to New York with the intervention of art patron Peggy Guggenheim, whom Ernst then married.

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Devastated and already showing signs of mental health problems Carrington had a psychotic breakdown and was hospitalized. She fled to Mexico where she spent the rest of her life painting, writing and raising two sons with her husband, Hungarian photographer Chiki Weisz, who died in 2007 at the age of 97. In 2009 one of her paintings, The Giantess, sold at Christies for $1.5 million.

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Carrington’s stories and novellas were published in small press editions and her work was often out of print despite her famous fans, such as Angela Carter who has cited her as an influence.

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington was published last year as was a biography, The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington by Joanna Moorehead. I’ve read some of her stories and they are wildly imaginative and often dreamlike, occasionally nightmarish.

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“Self-portrait”

As in her paintings she is fond of hybrid creatures in her fiction, leading sometimes to stories that are dark and unsettling or light and humorous, but for me at least so far, never boring.

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